The draw for MGM Northfield Park's most storied race, the $200,000 Battle of Lake Erie, is just days away, and the 2022 edition is shaping up as a clash of harness racing's best veteran pacers on Saturday night, June 11.
Northfield's Director of Racing Operations, Dave Bianconi, has received a "yes" to the By-Invitation-Only event from the connections of nine of the sport's fastest horses.
Canadian superstar Jimmy Freight will make his first start south of the border since 2019 in Saturday's Battle. Retired initially to stud after his four-year-old campaign, the now seven-year-old stallion has returned to the racetrack with a vengeance. He is currently riding a six-race winning streak, including a track record victory in the $150,000 Camluck Classic at The Raceway at Western Fair District in his most recent outing. The $1.7 million career earner is pulling double duty as a stud and top Free-For-All pacer for Ontario owner Adriano Sorella. Northfield-based conditioner Cory Kreiser will handle Jimmy Freight's training duties in the race.
Also invading from Canada will be $1.3 million earner Tattoo Artist. The Dr. Ian Moore trainee was second to Jimmy Freight in the Camluck Classic in May and rolled to a seasonal best 1:48.3 victory at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday night.
Representing the Buckeye State in the Battle will be 2021 Breeders Crown champion Ocean Rock. On Saturday evening, the Ohio-sired speedster notched a 1:49.2 score in just his second start of the 2022 campaign at Scioto Downs.
Nicholas Beach, the fastest horse in the sport this season, by virtue of a 1:47 triumph at The Meadowlands on May 21, will make his first visit to Northfield for the Battle. The sister/brother - trainer/driver team of Jenn and Joe Bongiorno campaigns and co-owns Nicholas Beach.
Other Battle invitees include another stallion pulling double duty in the stud barn and the racetrack, 2021 Dan Patch Pace champion Catch The Fire.
Adding more international flair to the event are Australian-sired Leonidas A, the top Open pacer at MGM Empire City (Yonkers Raceway), and New Zealand-sired Funatthebeach N, winner of the richest race in harness racing thus far in 2022, the $549,000 Borgata Pacing Series final at Yonkers in April.
Ohio-sired and owned Sectionline Bigry, a 10-time winner in 2022, will also make his Battle of Lake Erie debut on Saturday.
The final spot in the field will go to a member of the deep pacing arsenal of harness racing's leading trainer Ron Burke, quite possibly 2021 Battle of Lake Erie champion This Is The Plan, or Workin Ona Mystery, winner of the $100,000 Commodore Barry at Harrah's Philadelphia in his last outing.
The Battle will be Northfield's 11th race at approximately 10:20 p.m. (Eastern). The Battle wagering menu will feature a pair of guaranteed pools as part of the U.S. Trotting Association Strategic Wagering program. A $15,000 Guaranteed $1 Pick-4 that kicks off with the Battle and a $15,000 guaranteed 20-cent Super High-Five pool added specifically to Race 11 on Saturday night for the main event.
The loaded Battle undercard will include the second leg of the rich Ohio Sires Stakes for three-year-old male pacers and the inaugural $35,000 MGM Buckeye Distaff, an invitational for veteran Ohio-sired pacing mares.
First race post time is 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 for the 2022 Battle of Lake Erie program.
(With files from Northfield Park)